I've worked on hundreds of business ideas that didn't work out. Exploring these ideas lead me to where I am today, but I'm glad I didn't stick with them.
For example, in my early twenties, I started a snowboard shop. I invested as much time and money as I could into the business. But each additional ounce of effort didn't produce more revenue or better margins. The business itself was needy. It needed a huge amount of energy just to keep it afloat: rent paid, inventory ordered, employees scheduled. It was like treading water with a weight chained to my feet.
There's a danger in sticking with bad ideas for too long. You keep investing in the business, hoping that it will turn the corner, but it never really gains traction.
Bad ideas are hungry: they consume whatever energy, money, or time you throw at them, without giving you anything back.
"This is the ultimate paradox with startups – not yet vs. never. Persistence is good but eventually becomes delusion." – Ben Kinnard
On the other hand...
Good business ideas sweep you up with their momentum.
You don't have to carry them; they carry you. You apply the same effort to them, but they produce 100x the results.
When you're working on a good idea, you can feel the velocity increasing; like a river that starts slow and then gets faster.
My friend Sean McCabe recently experienced this. "After 6 years of not feeling this feeling, and then finally experiencing this feeling, I can vouch for what you’re saying," he told me. "For all those years," he continued, "it was a 10 out of 10 difficulty level—working so hard and just barely getting by." But now, with his new business, he feels like he's exerting 10% of his previous effort, but getting 10x the results.
How do you get to a good idea?
"Prioritize exploration over iteration." – Nick Moore
To get to a successful idea, you're going to need to try many things. The key is to not get stuck on something that's not working.
A good business idea has these characteristics:
If you're on the hunt for a good idea, don't be discouraged. Good ideas often reveal themselves when you're in the midst of doing something else. Keep exploring and be alert!